The Pilot's Blog

What’s the Difference Between Robusta and Arabica Coffee?

It’s time to put on your learning caps and brew yourself a fresh cup of coffee—it’s time for some bean knowledge!  Coffee aficionados of all levels have without a doubt heard the words “Robusta” or “Arabica”. If you aren’t familiar with either, these two terms describe the two different species of beans grown commercially. They are the same in that when harvested, roasted and eventually brewed to become that magical thing we call coffee. However that’s where the similarities end. Robusta and Arabica differ when it comes to taste, growing environments and quality:

Taste

Robusta has a neutral to harsh taste range and is often likened to having an “oatmeal-like” taste. When unroasted, the smell of Robusta beans is described as raw-peanutty.

Arabicas, on the other hand, have a very wide taste range (depending on its varietal). The range differs from sweet-soft to sharp-tangy. When unroasted, Arabica beans smell like blueberries. Their roasted smell is described as perfumey with notes of fruit and sugar tones.

Growing environments

Robusta coffee beans come from a resilient plant that is able to be grown in low altitudes of 200-800 meters. Robusta beans aren’t very susceptible to damage done by pests. Additionally, they produce more finished product per acre and require fairly low production costs.

Contrariwise, Arabica coffee beans are fragile and must grow in cool, subtropical climates.  Arabica beans also need a lot of moisture, rich soil, shade and sun. Because of their fragility, Arabica beans are vulnerable to attack from various pests and can be damaged by cold temperatures or poor handling. This type of bean also needs to be grown at a higher elevation (600-2000 meters).

Which bean is better? 

No contest!  If you had to choose between an Arabica bean and a Robusta bean, it’s important to always choose Arabica.

Robusta fosters use mono-cropping, the practice of growing the same plant every year in one place. It yields more space since it involves clear-cutting the forest for the crop. Because Robusta is more a resilient plant than the delicate Arabica, it can be grown in more places. Large coffee companies buy huge amounts of rainforest, clear-cut the land and plant Robusta beans. Robusta is often mixed with Arabica,  allowing the coffee companies to save a pretty penny and serve you a crappy cup. Not to mention, mono-cropping, when done excessively, also erodes soil and demolishes nutrients making the soil nearly unusable.

What does The Roasterie use?

Of course, since we provide some of the best coffee around, we use Arabica beans in all of our air roasted coffees!

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